Happy Divine Mercy Sunday! Or Happy Thomas Sunday, or Quasimodo Sunday!
It’s Divine Mercy Sunday because on this day, the Church adores the Risen Jesus and His tender mercy for us all. The official devotion to Divine Mercy began when Jesus appeared to a Polish nun, St Faustina in the 1930s. He told her, “proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God”, and to make an image of Divine Mercy: Jesus touching his wounded heart. It’s from this heart of mercy, pierced on the Cross, that “the source of life gushed forth for souls, and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.”
It’s Thomas Sunday because on this day, the Church reads the Gospel of John and recalls the words of St Thomas on seeing the wounds of Jesus, the wounds of mercy. He said he would not believe, so Jesus came to him, invited him to touch and see. And he cried, “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”
And it’s Quasimodo Sunday because on this day, the Church would sing “Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite”, like newborn infants, long for pure, spiritual milk.
Quasimodo, of course, is more famous as the name of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, who was named Quasimodo because he was found on this day, on the steps of Notre Dame.
There is a beautiful thread of mercy running through this day.
If I ever doubt that this world desperately needs mercy, for ourselves and for others, I think about the Quasimodos of the world. We leave them on the steps, ignore them in the streets, and wish we didn’t have to see them because it is unpleasant to us. Like Christ, the Man of Sorrows, we hide our faces from them. It’s not really because they are ugly, is it? It’s because when we do look, we see how ugly our own pretense at “charity” is. At least I do.
It’s scary to look. We see our wounds and the wounds of others and we ask, did I do that? Did I allow that happen? And having seen, am I just going to walk away? Because what if you can’t cope with the looking? What if the pain is too much? Or there’s too much hurt? What if you can’t fix it and you can only sit and listen? What if in the looking, you can only ever see the need?
But this is a Sunday for looking. Looking to the Risen Christ who bears the wounds of mercy. Looking to the spaces and wounds and gaps and hollows in our world that are aching for mercy. There is a flood of mercy for this world and ourselves, if only we will let it.
“Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God.” This I believe, for what is Mercy but Love meeting us where we are? But to come, we first have to look. Mercy looks and sees us, comes to us and meets us where we are: sinners, doubters, outcasts. And at different times and in different ways, aren’t we all all three of those things?
Mercy is tender. And in that word, we see the miracle of mercy because tender can mean both sore and gentle, wounded and salving. The one should invite the other. If your wounds are tender, I must be tender. If I am tender, I acknowledging that you are tender. I am seeing you, just as you are, and attending to you, exactly where you are. Tender and attention both have the same root word in tendre, meaning to stretch.
That’s what mercy is too.
A stretching forward, achingly gentle, a meeting between tender wounds and tender hands. And Mercy comes to us, just as we are.